Ohio Pro-Lifers Look to November After Special Election Setback
A measure failed Tuesday that would have aided pro-lifers in their efforts against an amendment expanding abortion access.
Pro-lifers in Ohio faced a setback Tuesday with the defeat of Issue One, a measure that would have made it more difficult to amend the state’s constitution. A majority, 57%, of voters rejected the amendment to raise the threshold to pass constitutional amendments from a 50%-plus-one majority to 60%. While the vote was not directly about abortion, it would have made it more difficult to pass an amendment, coming up for a vote in November, which would ensure virtually unlimited abortion access.
The amendment, backed by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union would add language to the Ohio Constitution, stating that “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.” Pro-life groups have raised concerns that the amendment would take away parental rights, allow late-term abortion, and do away with the state’s existing health and safety requirements for abortion clinics.
The state has gotten national attention as both sides see the upcoming November vote as the latest test on abortion since the disappointing 2022 midterm outcomes for pro-lifers on state ballot initiatives. Ohio is one of just 18 states that allow citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. Abortion advocates are planning similar efforts to add abortion to state constitutions in 11 states in 2024, including Florida, South Dakota and Missouri.
President Joe Biden, who has committed to expanding abortion access following the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationally in 1973, commented on the election result Tuesday calling the effort to raise the voting threshold “a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions. Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won.”
However, pro-life groups argued that raising the threshold to amend the constitution would have prevented outside, special interest groups from coming into the state and pouring money into elections.
Protect Women Ohio, a coalition of more than 50 pro-life and faith-based organizations opposed to the amendment, said in a statement Tuesday that "tonight’s election results prove exactly why Ohio’s constitution needs and deserves additional protections: liberal dark money groups funded by a Swiss billionaire swooped in during the eleventh hour and blanketed Ohio with deceptive ads.” The organization is “more motivated than ever” in opposition to the amendment in November.
The Associated Press reported that the effort against Issue One, called One Person One Vote, “raised a majority — nearly 85% — of its $14.8 million in contributions from outside Ohio, its filings show” and the largest donations came “from so-called dark money groups that aren’t legally obligated to disclose their donors, including the progressive Sixteen Thirty Fund, based in Washington, and the social justice group the Tides Foundation, based in California. The Sixteen Thirty Fund counts among its funders Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who has given the group more than $200 million since 2016.”
They also noted that “the coalition supporting the measure, called Protect Our Constitution, is funded almost entirely by billionaire Illinois business owner Richard Uihlein, who contributed $4 million of the campaign’s $4.8 million, according to campaign filings. The campaign’s largest Ohio-based donation, $150,000, came from Save Ohio Jobs, a group tied to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.”
Peter Range, chief executive officer of Ohio Right to Life which had backed Issue One, said the measure’s defeat “will not deter us from continuing to fight the ACLU’s extreme agenda this November, which seeks to allow abortion up until birth and take away parents’ rights to protect their child from being pressured into an abortion or even a sex-change operation.”
Lizzie Marbach, Ohio Right to Life director of communications, told the Register that “state-sanctioned murder is on the ballot this November” and the group remains “steadfast in our mission to defeat this evil, knowing that it does not belong anywhere near Ohio. We are trusting that pro-life Ohioans will see the urgency of this election and defeat this effort in the fall.”
Ohio bishops had remained neutral on the issue of raising the threshold to amend the state Constitution, stating that they “do not have a position on Issue 1, as it does not have moral content. However, as ‘responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation’ (‘Faithful Citizenship,’ No. 13),” they encouraged Ohio Catholics to register and vote in the special election.
Michelle Duffey, communications director at the Ohio Catholic Conference, told the Register that “our path ultimately stays the same” following the special election, regarding their efforts against the amendment. “We are just going to continue to focus our efforts on November,” she emphasized, “and encourage Catholics across the state to defeat this egregious abortion amendment.”